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OAKLAND — You may think the Raiders were awful on Sunday, losing their final game of the season — a home game — by the crushing score of 34-14.

Don't rush to judgment.

In the first half, when the game was still a game, sort of, the Raiders held the Denver Broncos to a field goal on one of the Broncos' five possessions. True, it felt like the Broncos scored touchdowns on each possession. But they didn't. The Raiders heroically rose up and held them to a field goal on their third possession.

The Raiders sure made a statement on that one. The other four Denver possessions did result in touchdowns, but if you judge the Raiders on those, you are nitpicking.

True, the Raiders scored no points in the first half — they trailed 31-zip at halftime. And they permitted Peyton Manning to break the single-season record for passing yardage. He broke it so fast the Broncos put him on the bench in the second half. But Manning could have broken the record against any number of teams.

The Raiders actually scored two touchdowns of their own in the second half, both passes by Terrelle Pryor, who got the start for reasons which still seem obscure. True, he threw his touchdown passes after the Broncos took out a host of defensive starters and put in the scrubs and maybe a ball boy or two and someone's uncle from his mother's side.

And that proves something essential. When the Raiders play a team as crummy as they are, they can compete. That just shows how well-coached they are. And the credit for that coaching, of course, goes to head coach Dennis Allen. Sure, his team lost its last six in a row, eight of nine if you're keeping count. But, according to him, the team made progress from last season even though it finished with the same 4-12 record. But this season's 4-12 apparently was a "good" 4-12.

It was so good, in fact, Allen expects to return next season. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here are some more good things to take away from Sunday. The crowd started booing the home team with 2:33 left in the first quarter. That is later than usual and indicates progress.

Although the Raiders did not know how to tackle, didn't seem to try, very few of them suffered injuries. And that is encouraging if you're a person who loves your fellow man. The Raiders are lovers.

After the game, Allen came to the interview room. He rarely shows emotion and he always acts like his team almost won. God love him.

Here are some of his remarks.

"We got beat by a better team today."

That remark is ambiguous. It either means, "We lost on Sunday to a team that is better than us all of the time." Or it means, "The Broncos were better than us on this one Sunday and only this one Sunday."

You make the call.

Allen: "We wanted to play better in the first half."

He sure didn't want to play worse.

Allen: "There were some positives in the game. The blocked punt was a positive."

Have you ever seen a man reaching — straining — for a positive?

High school football

This week's Press Democrat high school football outlook:

Tonight's large-school games

Montgomery (4-0) at Ukiah (2-2), 8 p.m.: Vikings have to regroup

after last week's false start -- practicing all week then having

Santa Rosa forfeit Saturday's game -- but Wildcats probably don't

have the firepower to stay with Jason Franci's No.2-ranked crew.

Casa Grande (1-3) at Healdsburg (3-1), 7 p.m.: Greyhounds are not

as strong as in recent years, but should still have the goods to hold

off the Gauchos.

Petaluma (3-1) at Analy (2-2), 7 p.m.: Trojans should be able to

wear down the Tigers, but Analy can make it close by exercising some

ball control.

Rancho Cotate (2-2) at River City (2-2), 7:30 p.m.: Cougars have

been up and down and won a dramatic game (22-21) over Piner last

week. River City comes off a win over Marysville.

Saturday's large-school games

Santa Rosa (0-4) vs. Cardinal Newman (4-0) at Bailey Field, 7:30

p.m.: Panthers have nothing to lose, but it's unlikely Cardinals will

look past them. CN coach Ed Monahan is painfully aware an underdog SR

squad was the last NBL team to beat his club, 13-10, in 1993. Cards

have won 12 straight league games since then.

Sonoma (2-1) at El Molino (3-1), 1 p.m.: Dragons' offense has come

to life, so Lions face the same problem they did vs. Petaluma: Hang

on to the ball or suffer the consequences.

Piner (0-4) at Elsie Allen (1-3), 1 p.m.: Big game for both teams

looking for a league win. Lobos came on strong in loss to Ukiah

(26-20) last week, while Piner lost a tough one (22-21) to Rancho.

Tonight's small-school games

Clear Lake at Arcata: Cardinals must regroup following collapse

against St. Vincent last week.

Upper Lake at Kelseyville: Indians are riding three-game win

streak but can't take Cougars lightly.

Middletown at Cloverdale: This should be an excellent matchup.

Middletown by a field goal.

Galena (Reno) at Lower Lake: This should be a good warm-up for the

Cougars before starting league play.

Saturday's small-school games

Round Valley at Potter Valley: Look for Fred Austin to earn 100th

victory. Wildcats by a bunch.

Willits at Berean Christian: Couple of years ago this would have

been a goody. Willits looks overmatched this year.

South Fork at St. Vincent: Mustangs should breeze in this one.

Calistoga at Point Arena: Calistoga makes first NCL III appearance

since dropping down. Pirates should prevail.

Hoopa at Fort Bragg: Jason Powers is back and so are Timberwolves.

Laytonville at Mendocino: Mendocino has lost last two meetings but

should make amends this season.

Tomales at Ferndale: Braves could be in for another long


On how Pryor played:

"I'm going to hold off on that until I have a chance to watch the tape."

That sounds like trouble for Pryor.

Did the team make progress this season?

"I believe it did in a lot of areas. Obviously, it didn't in the win-loss column."

Allen never mentioned a single area of progress.

Will he be back next season with his combined record of 8-24?

"I expect to be back and I'm looking forward to the opportunity to come back. Those are decisions that somebody else is going to make but, yeah, I expect to be back."

He may be right and that's really scary.

How does the team's future look?

"This will be the first offseason where we've got some money where we can go out and try to acquire some free agents that we'd like to keep here, and we'll have a complement of draft choices to go out and begin to build this football team. It's been a tough couple of years on everybody. It's been a tough couple of years on you guys (the media). It's been a tough couple of years on the fans. It's been a tough couple of years on everybody in the organization. It was something that needed to be done."

Note to coach: It wasn't tough on the media. We don't play for the Raiders.

Are there free agents with all their marbles who will sign with the Raiders?

"We'll go out and find good players that want to be a part of this."

Part of what?

Does he deserve at least another year?

"I fully believe I deserve the opportunity to come back here. I want to be part of the rebuilding phase."

Question: In what sense does he deserve to return?

After Allen, Pryor appeared in the interview room. Polite. Wearing a suit. Nice guy.

Does he want to return?

"I don't think now is the time for that."

Oy vey.

Does Allen deserve another chance?

"I love Coach Allen. He's a great leader. Thing I really like about him he didn't change. A lot of guys crack under pressure. Coach Allen handled himself phenomenal."

On the other hand, Pryor said he's not the one who will decide on Allen.

How does Pryor evaluate himself?

"I'm inconsistent."

An honest man.

Permit me to make a prediction. The Raiders do not have a quarterback on the roster right now, not someone to build around. Pryor is not the man and neither is Matt McGloin. The Raiders need to acquire two quarterbacks in the offseason.

They may also need to acquire a head coach. That is to be determined. They probably don't need to acquire a general manager. Reggie McKenzie, you would imagine, has at least one more season, although he has not distinguished himself. He hired Allen.

One thing we know for sure. The Raiders' season is over.


For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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